Stress is a common trigger for migraines. One method for relieving stress is relaxation. Easier said than done, right? When it comes to migraines, simply relaxing in a recliner isnt enough. You need to think extreme relaxation.
There are three major types of relaxation techniques:
Autogenic training. Utilizes visual imaging and bodily awareness to advance the patient into a state of deep relaxation. The patient imagines a tranquil location, then begins focusing physical sensations that gradually move upward from the feet toward the head.
Progressive muscle relaxation. Involves the slow tensing up and then releasing of each muscle group individually, beginning with the muscles in the toes and finishing with the head.
Meditation. Uses either Transcendental Meditation involving the repetition of a mantra, mindfulness meditation in which patients focus their attention on their momentary thoughts and sensations.
Research has shown that in many cases meditation improves ones quality of life, while reducing stress. Studies also reveal that relaxation techniques assist in the reduction of the perception of pain. One study using patients undergoing colorectal surgery concluded that patients who listened to guided-imagery tapes before, during, and after the operation had less pain and needed fewer pain medications than those who did not. Meditation is also used extensively in treating post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, relaxation techniques have been found useful in strengthening coping skills in migraine sufferers.
Fortunately, relaxation techniques can be done just about anywhere at any time. These techniques include:
- Deep breathing
Deep breathing: Simply breathe in deeply through the nose, letting your stomach expand as much as possible. It may be helpful to place your hands firmly & comfortably on your stomach during the exercise. Once youve breathed in as much as possible, hold your breath for a few seconds & then exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat this for 3 or 4 breaths several times a day.
Active relaxation: First tense, then relax each muscle in the body. Start with the muscles in the head & move down to the muscles in the feet.
Stretching exercises simple and easy and can be literally anywhere. Its a wonderful way to loosen up tight muscles and combat stress. Muscle tension is an automatic physical response to stress and the benefit of simple stretching exercises is often overlooked as a relaxation technique.
Another relaxation technique that can help to reduce stress is clearing the mind or visualization. Visualization is a type of directed meditation that involves using the minds eye to clear away mental clutter or to actually visualize how a stressful situation can be handled successfully. Picturing the stressful situation in your mind such as a business presentation or an athletic performance & then visually rehearsing the outcome does this. Visualization techniques also may be used to imagine a peaceful scene such as ocean waves lapping on the beach to create relaxation.
Meditation & self-hypnosis are passive relaxation techniques that can be used to create relaxation. Four elements are used in meditation: a quiet environment, a point of focus like a neutral word that can help with concentration, a passive, accepting attitude & a comfortable position.
Meditation once or twice a day for 10-20 minutes each time can bring rapid relief from chronic stress & also increase a persons ability to tolerate stress.
Learning ways to help yourself relax can have many benefits, perhaps the most important of which is developing a feeling of confidence about facing the everyday challenges of life, including helping to:
Reduce unhealthy stress & anxiety
Increase resistance to illness & disease
Lower blood pressure
Reduce the heart rate
Relieve muscle tension
Cope with medical problems, such as chronic pain or diabetes
Prevent, manage & cope with migraine headaches
Cope with extremely stressful or painful situations, such as childbirth.
Relaxation techniques are also considered very safe with delightful lack of side effects, although there have been very rare and unusual cases where people have actually raised their levels of anxiety rather than lowered them after using the techniques because of a heightened awareness of body sensations. Even more rare are the reports of pain, heart palpitations, muscle twitching, and crying spells.